Can you believe that I've already been back down in St. George now for a whole week?! Im still in shock that I'm not in Manti anymore... And especially that I'm back down in Washington Fields. I've only heard of one other sister in this mission who served in an area and then came back to that same area later on.
Before I go on any further, let me just give you a brief version of the past 6 months of my mission. I served in Washington Fields for 3 months. We had some miracles happen, that's for sure. But not many baptisms there let alone non-members to teach. It was struggling. With 12 wards to cover and spending half of our time in the visitors center, it was difficult to build relationships with the members. I really enjoyed my time there and was sad to leave but little did I know I had no idea what Manti would be like. Get to Manti and it's almost the opposite of Washington Fields - tons of finding, teaching, baptizing, and the members and our leaders were our best friends. Washington Fields had on average 15 lessons per week. In Manti we were able to have 40-50 lessons a week. It was a sliver of paradise.
We thought that I would for sure stay in Manti. We had SO much work going on there that none of us could imagine a new set of missionaries being brought in. Sister Lasalosi was going home so we had predictions of who would come up to be my companion. But then President called and said that I'm leaving... He said that Washington Fields was really struggling. Still. At first, I was really apprehensive about this. It was so hard to say goodbye to those we were teaching and the members we were working with. I don't feel I've felt so close to a whole stake before. Preparing everything for elders to come in and take over was a bit rough. There are just some things you can't convey through the area book. Like how very much we love these people and just want them to not be forgotten and continued to be taken care of!! But I know the elders are already doing great there and it's SO reassuring to know that the members will continue in their missionary efforts there.
My companion I was assigned to here in Washington Fields is Sister Archambault. She actually already served with me when we were in the Washington stake so it was also a bit of a shocker that we were being out back together!! But that was the nice part of the transfer, that I already knew the area and knew my companion and we could just get to work. The first day we were together we went over our goals for the work here and made plans on how we would achieve them. Finding new investigators and working with members and ward leaders were our focus.
The first few days we were together we prayed consistently for Heavenly Father to help us find a family to teach. We did a lot of different finding activities and were having no success. We decided that we just needed to be a little more patient and continue to pray and act. Lessons were continuing to cancel on us and doors continually shut. We were becoming a little discouraged and cynical but we tried to change our attitudes and keep praying specifically.
One night while walking through a neighborhood and contacting some referrals, we walked by a park. Sister Archambault suggested that we talk to this family sitting under the pavilion in the park with three kids. We went on over and started up a conversation about their cute baby in the stroller. They were super friendly and after some laughs the husband, Chris, looked at us and asked why we're missionaries and what we do as missionaries. You know, those golden questions always catch me so off guard that everything I have studied throughout my mission seems to come out in the most awkward of replies. But as we answered we started to ask them about their own beliefs. They told us they're from "Flarida" (misspelling intended) and had fallen away from their faith, one Lutheran and the other Baptist. We started to teach them the message of the restoration and oh my goodness, I never thought the spirit could feel so strong in the local park! We left them with a pamphlet and they both expressed their desires in meeting with us again. The Cook family was a direct answer to our prayers. It was hard for Sister Archambault and I not to squeal while walking away from that visit. We will be seeing them in a few days.
We have three lessons with potential investigators tonight so we are super excited!!! I have never had this happen in Washington Fields before.
On to our second goal: member missionary work. This one we were a little nervous about because this is an extremely wealthy area and it's hard to find families that aren't so busy with work and activities to meet with us. After meetings with the stake president and our mission president, we came up with a way to involve the members more. This program that our stake president suggested has been helping immensely to get in the homes to teach members and help them with their missionary work as well as increasing the communication and accountability between our ward mission leaders and us. We have specifically been praying for our 12 ward mission leaders and bishops and have been trying to build more of their trust. As a result, we have been able to receive many referrals and have extremely productive ward councils and coordination meetings. The whole attitude of the leadership is beginning to change! And us as well. The members and leaders are beginning to communicate with us more and are making plans to fellowship neighbors and friends. The Lord is truly working miracles here. He is softening the hearts of many, including our own. We didn't have the best attitude at first, but we are feeling a great change.
After receiving my transfer call to come back, I kept having this reoccurring thought that attitude determines altitude. It reminded me of the story of when President Monson was a mission president in Canada and the miracle of "Stony Kingston." Look it up :) great example of the power of ones attitude.
As I was heading back down to Washington Fields from Manti, the spirit brought to remembrance a chapter in the book of Alma, chapter 8. This is where Alma is basically getting transferred city to city preaching the gospel. He went to one city, Ammonihah, and the people there wouldn't even listen to the words that he had to say. In verse 10 it says, "Nevertheless Alma labored much in the spirit, wrestling with God in mighty prayer, that he would pour out his Spirit upon the people who were in the city; that he would also grant that he might baptize them unto repentance." Despite Alma's efforts, the people hardened their hearts and told him he basically should just leave because he's wasting his time there. (What I always felt like before while contacting people in Washington Fields). So, understandably, Alma leaves the city. He was "weighed down with much sorrow, wading through much tribulation and anguish of soul, because of the wickedness of the people who were in the city of Ammonihah."
If he's anything like me, he's probably just thinking that he will move on and find more success in the next area. But then an angel of the Lord appears to him and says (in verse 15), "Blessed art thou, Alma; therefore, lift up thy head and rejoice, for thou hast great cause to rejoice; for thou hast been faithful in keeping the commandments of God... And behold, I am sent to command thee that thou RETURN to the city of Ammonihah, and preach AGAIN unto the people of the city."
But my favorite part is verse 18 where Alma SPEEDILY returns to Ammonihah and enters the city "by another way." This verse really hit me that upon my returning to Washington Fields, that I too might need to enter "by another way." Lately, Sister Archambault and I have been thinking that this other way is by Family History work. We still have a lot of pondering, studying, praying, and coordinating to do on this but I know it's not coming into my mind again and again for nothing!
I am so very grateful to be back in Washington Fields. Especially with Sister Archambault. Before we were only together for one transfer. It was alright, but this transfer is so different now. Instead of being just companions it's like we are best friends working towards the same goals. I love serving with her!! We can talk for hours and I can be open with her about anything and everything. We have the same mindset on goals and she really helps me out in achieving them. Plus, she makes me get up and run with her every morning at 6 :) I need that!!
I know that I am here for a purpose and that the Lord has great things in store for the Washington Fields stake :) sorry this email was so long... I just had a lot to say! Things are going swell and I'm SO excited for tonight!
Thank you for your prayers, they made all the difference in coming back with a better attitude this time :)
Much love, Sister Martin
The Valentines, our landlords in Manti, and their cute dog, Bella!! Oh how I miss the Valentines! They were the best landlords anyone could ever ask for. They are like family to me.